SZ Chapter 1

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Split Zone 13
1 If You’re Gonna Die, Die With Style

My name is Li Shen. I’m female and 23 years old this year. It’s been one year and 13 days since I died. That’s right. You didn’t misread that. I’m saying that I’ve been dead for more than a year. One year ago, I was just an ordinary patient at a psychiatric hospital. Today, one year later, I stand under a grey and overcast sky, in a strange and unfathomable position.

To call me a bloodthirsty enchantress wouldn’t be undue. Like the sexy and flirtatious female demons in the online games that guys liked to play, I was dressed in a floor-length, blood-red dress that perfectly outlined my figure. The long skirt flowed past my ankles, red satin swaying every which way as I moved. My feet were adorned with a pair of 10 cm red heels, but still, I was able to run effortlessly under the night sky. Even without the wind, my enchanting, long, red curls would dance at my back.

On nights like these, I often sped through the streets like an out of control cheetah. Sometimes, when I ran fast enough, all you could see was a red streak fly by.

It had become a habit of mine to run fiercely, wildly through the night. This seemingly savage, and yet beautiful, pastime helped relieve the stresses pressing down on me. I really wanted to escape this place, but I haven’t been able to make sense of it all. After a year here, deep down, I’ve realized that I am no longer human. In fact, I might not fall into any species of creatures, not even the ones that existed in myths and stories. I’ve simply become a lonely, misty presence. Every time I thought of that, a trace of helplessness and sadness passed through me.

This day, as on days before, I flew down the city streets. The scene from one year ago, when I first arrived to this place, played through my mind.

One year ago, I was an ordinary third year college student. If I had to name something that set me apart from others, it would be that I suffered from double identity disorder. Though my personality had always been a been a bit out of the ordinary, my mental disorder wasn’t very serious. Sometimes I was a little peculiar, a bit obsessive-compulsive, or slightly more emotional than others, but those things didn’t greatly affect my day to day life.

But then, one day, the illness that I’d never minded much turned my world upside down, like an evildoer plotting away in the darkness. That day, for some reason, the second identity within me suddenly erupted. After completely taking control of me, I plunged a knife into the chest of a fourth year student whom I’d been crushing on for many years. I don’t remember the details of what happened before or after the incident. All I know is that, after the knife blade kissed his skin, I passed out. When I regained consciousness, I was already settled in on a bed at a psychiatric hospital.

My doctor was a handsome, Chinese and American mixed race man. His features were a bit more Chinese, with black hair and not entirely blue eyes, but there was a certain aura about him that made him stand out against other people. As I admired his appearance, he told me that I had personally killed my beloved senior. It was then that I understood the darkness of closing my eyes.

I’d loved him so much, but because of a psychiatric disorder, before I had the chance to tell him sweet words like ‘I’ll love you until the end of time, and we’ll be together ’til death do we part’ I plunged a knife into his heart to prove that ‘I’ll love you even after your death.’

When I started seizing, two well-endowed nurses held me down. The handsome doctor stuck a large needle into my slender, pale arm. And that’s where my recollection of reality stops. After that needle stabbed my skin, I quickly lost consciousness. Some unknown time later, when I finally woke up, I stood in this ghastly place that I’m now stuck in.

I remember that when I woke up, I’d been standing in the middle of the city. I just suddenly woke up while standing there.

This city doesn’t seem to have blue skies. Instead, they’re grey. There’s also no sun, but the sky does appear to be lit by some unknown source.

When I first opened my eyes, all I could see was that there were people walking to and fro on the street around me. The first figure to walk into my sights was an old man. He was a rather ordinary old man, except for his head. As I stared at his head, my eyes slowly widened. A fear suddenly rushed into my heart—the kind of fear you’d feel if you woke up to see a monster in front of you.

My fear stemmed from the fact that the top of his skull was missing. That’s right. A piece of his skull was missing, just like the Japanese woman who had her head chopped off in Kill Bill or the man who had his head cut off by Hannibal in Hannibal. And because the old man was shorter than me, I could see the squirming brain inside of his exposed skull. It was bloody too.

So, naturally, I shrieked out, “Ah—!!” Traveling from the bottom of my stomach to the top of my head, the sound morphed into a dolphin’s squeal, echoing throughout the street. Even I was alarmed by the sound. I felt my skull trembling, and I immediately had the impulse to reach up, to check if my head was still intact.

My dolphin shriek was accompanied by another similar, but slightly deeper, shout, “Ah—!!” It was the old man. As his voice wasn’t as high pitched as mine, my scream nearly drowned his out. He seemed more startled than me, like he’d just seen a ghost.

“Why are you screaming?! I should be the one screaming!” My whole body shook as I extended my hand, a trembling finger pointed at his head.

“N-no… I just haven’t seen a living person arrive in a long time, so I was a bit surprised. Young lady, don’t be afraid…” The old man’s eyes seemed to start leaking with, what appeared to be, tears, as he looked at me pitifully. My lips twitched, and my entire body felt unwell. I truly didn’t know how I should have interpreted his words.

As my body trembled and my thoughts jumbled, I came to a sudden realization. In a panic, I raised my head and looked around at the passing figures, the people. I was immediately overcome with a disorienting feeling of wanting to face-plant onto the ground.

The people around me could hardly be called people. They took on various shapes with various types of dress. Some were in period garb, others in modern clothing. Someone looked like Superman, while others looked like groups of zombies. There were even creatures that looked like animal-human hybrids. Were those vampires? Was that an avatar (t/n: human-Na’vi hybrids of the same name film) over there? And there were many other creatures that I could never have possibly imagined.

Compared to those things, this crownless old man wasn’t all that frightening. One might even call him a bit cute. As my mind conjured up that description, I looked back at the old man’s open skull, and a nauseating feeling climbed up my throat.

I was able to suppress the sudden nausea, but as I looked around at the unfathomable scene before me, I reacted as any normal person would have. I lifted my left hand and smacked my cheek. The crisp sound rang in my ears and I cried out, “Damn, that hurts!”

It wasn’t a dream, I realized. But if it wasn’t a dream, what did this scene before me mean? I stared blankly at the old man as my mind tried to decide whether to drop to the ground or not.

“When one first arrives here, their body radiates light. We haven’t seen a living person here in a long while, so when I first saw you glowing like that, I was startled. But don’t be afraid, young lady. The guide will arrive soon to explain everything to you.” I must have been visibly upset, for the old man tried to comfort me. He extended his hand, and then I noticed that the top of his head had started to regenerate. By the time he finished speaking, he truly looked just like any ordinary old man. But that hadn’t been comforting at all. Rather, I could only stand there frozen with a face of shock.

The old man was about to continue speaking when a sphere of light appeared and started to envelop me. Oddly enough, the light gave me a sense of security in this unfamiliar place. I wondered which of the following was occurring: (1) I was about to be transported home, (2) I was about to wake up, or (3) I may have just died, and now I was being resurrected.

My imagination really was a testament to my intelligence. Regardless of the outcome, I couldn’t help but laugh at the situation. Even the halo of light was so cliche. Then, one short second later, the scene around me changed.

mayy’s comments:

Psych Roundup (click to expand)
This story includes certain terminology that pertains to psychology and mental disorders. Initially, I tried to match disorders named in the story to real-life disorders, but soon found myself battling with inconsistencies. I’ve since decided to translate the terms a bit more directly and treat them as fictional afflictions that may or may not be based upon real ones.

Our main character suffers from ‘double identity disorder,’ whose real-life counterpart would probably be dissociative identity disorder (DID), also called multiple personality disorder (MPD). I figure most people have heard of this, maybe from a movie or TV show. The disorder is categorized by the presence of at least two distinct identities, or personality states, in someone. It’s as if multiple persons or souls had to share a single body.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dissociative_identity_disorder
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Dissociative_identity_disorder_in_popular_culture

Misc: A song translation (click to expand)
Incidentally, I came across a song that I believe inspired one of the lines this chapter: It was then that I understood the darkness of closing my eyes.

A-do: Darkness
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_flXaAvyGso

If the wind stops, how will the clouds fly?
If you leave, how will I sleep?
If my heart breaks, how will you compensate me?
Could it be that you’re just a butterfly playing around?

The sky’s gone dark. Who are you thinking of now?
Our love’s been extinguished, so how can I chase after it?
The words have been spoken, so how can you take them back?
In the end, all you’ve done was make my tears fall

The entire world suddenly went dark
Right in front of me, my love collapsed without a sound, crushed to pieces

When I close my eyes, it’s dark
It feels like I’m being ripped apart
The taste of blood floods my mouth
Such a painful parting…

I admit that I’m most afraid of the darkness
The feeling of my dreams being hollowed out
I’m no longer yours
And that makes my heart break


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